Anyone who has ever cultured vegetables knows that moment of uncontainable excitement when the first bubbles appear. After three months, one week, and five days of experimenting, at last, I think I’ve done it! It may be premature boasting but I’m confident in those seemingly magical bubbles.
I’ve tossed umpteen grams of veg to the compost and chickens as well as eaten a few less than appealing pounds just to avoid “waste guilt.” Although these earlier attempts used all organic produce, could it be that this last batch was made exclusively with veg from my very own garden?
I would like to believe veg cared for with doting hands from sow to harvest is more conducive to such biological enrichment, and that would be true. But my failures were more likely due to practice not product as I’d done minimal research and therefore not adhered to proper room temperature and sterilization techniques. Only time will tell if my confidence in these magical bubbles will be rewarded, but it’s looking good so far…”
The above excerpt is from a journal of mine from many years ago. As time and practice would have it, I’m now a successful fermenter and my speculations above have proven to be true– organic, home-grown ingredients and those locally foraged create the best quality and flavour ferments.
The science of lactic acid fermented foods centres on the ability of the lactic acid bacteria to make acid, which then inhibits the growth of other non-desirable organisms. This biological action occurs when microorganisms convert sugars and carbohydrates in fermenting foods into lactic acid. It then lowers the pH which is what creates the sour flavours fermented foods are known for. The more lactic acid, the more tart or sour the taste becomes. Not only does this add up to great flavour, but lactic acid ferments are proven to improve the balance between the beneficial and disease-causing bacteria that exist naturally in your gut which is great news for anyone with digestive issues or those wanting to avoid them. The most important and well-known lactic acid producing bacteria is Lactobacillus, but there are several others.
I’ve since expanded to include other lactic acid ferments such as yoghurt, eggs, cheese, and oodles of veg and fruits. Symbiotic ferments (which combine bacteria and yeast to create the product as well as to reproduce its starter culture) helps me create delicious kombucha tea, milk kefir, and water kefir.
From beans to beer to bread, wine to water, surf to turf– they are all worth mentioning to emphasize the vastness of possibility fermentation offers.
Over a decade ago when I was pregnant with my first child, I discovered fermented foods in my neighbourhood health food store. There’s no telling how much fermented salsa, kimchi, and sauerkraut I ate during that pregnancy! It was a far better choice than the pickled foods in grocery stores that are pasteurized and intentionally kill off the healthy micro-organisms that are present while also destroying vast amounts of valuable nutrients. But the health store prices made me hesitant to indulge as often as I’d like so I decided to learn to make it myself at home. Much like sewing, I’m convinced that fermenting is another skill one masters over years and years of practice, never to exhaust all the possibilities in one lifetime.
I adore the complex sour, stinky, tangy flavours and the knowing that it’s how
our ancestors naturally and safely preserved food before refrigeration and high-tech, nutrient-depleting canning and packaging was invented. And the beverages of kombucha tea, water kefir, and milk kefir are phenomenal alternatives to most shop bought drinks.
What are the magical bubbles I speak of?
Gas is created when the lactic and acetic bacteria feast on the sugar and carbs from the foodstuffs. When yeast eats sugar, they create waste products like CO2 which makes things bubble as the gas rises to the surface to escape into the atmosphere. Not exactly magic, but if certainly feels that way when the first tell-tale ‘blubblub’ sounds are heard.
*Clicking on any of the photos above will direct you to a post on how about the pictured topic.
*It’s helpful to know that other names used when referring to certain fermented products are probiotic & cultured foods.
Next time in the kitchen I’ll share my recently made home-grown fermented pickles. Delicious and nutritious and just about ready to dig into!!
Until then, happy healthy eating! Melissa Xx
*A commenter suggested this video which I watched and highly recommend. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ZEtmmEZmWE